Art In Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures: 1940-1980 by Dan Nodel (book review).

Another couple books by Dan Nodel have been sitting in my shopping list for some time, mostly because of their expense. I ended up picking up ‘Art In Time: Unknown Comic Book Adventures: 1940-1980’ simply because it was cheaper than ‘Art Out Of Time’ by a big margin and in his introduction, Nodel points out that this book is a companion than a sequel.

With that knowledge, I dug into this book. As the sub-title points out, his comicbook artists choices are not the well-known names but certainly had something to offer. There’s a touch of the Jules Feiffer book ‘The Great Comic Book Heroes’ about it but it would be hard not to miss the comparison if you’ve seen both books. Lets pick out some artists of interest.

The first was a stunner. Harry Lucey (1913-1979) drew the ‘Sam Hill’ detective comic for its 7 issue run, which a little checking reveals you can actually buy in a volume. There is no indication here who wrote the 1960s strip but the two here are eye-openers. I’ve heard the name before and think it was often used by Ben Grimm saying, ‘What in the Sam Hill is going on here?’ OK, Sam Hill is an ex-ivy league halfback now private detective with a white streak in his hair with a drawl wit which makes for a fun read and left me wondering why he wasn’t picked up for a TV series or film because it still works some 60 years later.

Now H.G. Peter’s example here are three-parts of ‘Man O’Metal’ from 1941 is definitely a curio. Pat Dempsey changes into a metal man briefly when exposed to extreme heat. As we follow his adventures, its seeing the variety of ways to do it which becomes curious although I think getting a hot poker nearly in his eye is pushing it a bit. Oddly, in his blue metal form, apart from size and strength, has a touch of the Hulk about him.

I had to raise an eyebrow at the art of Sharon Rudahl (1947- ), I ended up paying attention to her SF story where test tube babies were the way to go and the problem when one woman has a real birth and then we follow the life of her child, Crystal Night. A very dystopian reality that would make you think and a complete tale.

Sam J. Glanzman did ‘Kona‘ which is an odd strip utilising text like EC Comics with an odd touch of dialogue, although this is made up for by large panels and equally large beasties. A bit quirky but menacing.

John Stanley (1914-93) demonstrates how art can pull a story strong together in ‘Two For The Price Of One’ when a con man wants to scare his new wife to death for her money. Weirdly, the stories drawn by Matt Fox (1906-88) are far better than his art.

Matt Cox (1905-88) is also of mixed taste in his two horror tales, more cartoony is his work and basic in his approach but tells the tales.

Not all of them are unknown to me. I’ve heard of Pat Boyette (1923-2000) although not seen much of his work until now. I can see the Wallace Wood influence though, especially when it comes to alien worlds.

Jesse Martin (1907-66) has a lively western tale of ‘Johnny Mack Brown’ who teaches a tenderfoot (a city folk person) half-heir to a ranch how to be a cowboy and defend himself. It’s not an easy path and it wouldn’t have been out of place as a western film or part of a TV series.

Do I need to tell you who Bill Everett (1917-73) was? None of his Sub-Mariner work here but still a tale at sea with Venus versus Neptunus, who must surely have the biggest set of teeth for a woman.

The other tales are most underground comics-like material. Nodel makes a point of giving page histories of all the artists and enough of a scattershot to cover most tastes for period American comicbook artists.

GF Willmetts

July 2020

(pub: Abrams Comicart, 2010. 302 page large illustrated hardback. Price: I pulled my copy for about £ 6.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-8109-8824-8)

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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